The Qur'an offers women the same rights, author says

02/01/05

ITHACA, N.Y. -- The Qur'an, Islam's sacred text, offers Muslim women the same rights as men, according to a new book, Woman's Identity and the Qur'an: A New Reading, by Nimat Hafez Barazangi, a research fellow in Cornell University's Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.

Barazangi argues that the Qur'an traditionally has been misinterpreted. Muslim women have been excluded from full participation in Islamic society because of patriarchal readings of the Qur'an, which dates back to the 7th century, says Barazangi. "The realities of Muslim women haven't changed since the beginning. The men have interpreted the Qur'an up until now, and Muslim women have been taught that interpretations have the same authority as the Qur'an itself," she says. But that practice is directly contradicted in the Qur'an, which "specifically states that each individual is obligated to understand Islam by reading the Qur'an and making sense of it himself or herself. This must be done continually, over time and space."

Barazangi's book is based on 10 years of pedagogical study of the Qur'an and participatory action research with grassroots Muslim women's groups and non-Muslim feminist groups in the United States, Canada and Syria.

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